Have you ever thought about your future and thought you had it figured all out ahead of time? Created a plan where you were sure it would make you happy and then was forced to take a left turn towards something else? Or navigated something hard or unexpected and felt discouraged because it wasn’t a part of “YOUR” plan?
Reality is, plans change and we are in less control of our future than we like to admit.
Don't get me wrong; good decisions, hard work, and a little bit of luck can help reach obtainable goals - I'm talking more about life circumstances that can't be earned or expected. In those moments or after the acceptance, the really special gifts from the journey can bless you beyond anything you could've planned for...but, the hard part is getting to the joy of the change!
A few weeks ago I was reminded how incredible life is when you can be on the other side of the "its not my plan" frustrations and see the blessings of the unexpected.
I was in a new woman's small group and the discussion question was about how God navigated you through a difficult time. I decided to be brave and share one of my stories where I had struggled, but because of His love he carried me through and now I can see the blessing He provided. My story isn't as unique as I probably feel it is, but there was a time it felt very isolating and confusing. I've felt nudged ever since to share my story and the reaction from the group in case it brings hope and perspective to anyone else going through a tough life chapter.
So here's the story I told...
I am so blessed to be married to my husband and know without a shadow of a doubt God created me for Gil. God called me to be his wife and to love him through all our challenges and victories. I am honored to be able to walk with him and watch him grow into a mighty man - even more mightier now than when we first met. He has all the qualities I need in a partner; strength, protection, humor, masculinity, generosity, kindness, silliness...I could go on - but he's not the focus of this story (sorry, babe). The point is; I know God made me for him because even at his worst he's the best part of my life. God gave me a set a skills to love deeply and I use those daily to pour into this man. Love; along with other things God has given us like patience, hard work, healthy compromise, and other important skills has brought both of us to the place we are in this moment of marriage - happy.
Even though I know I was made for my husband, some of the life "plans" I had for myself and us still weren't easy to overcome when they didn't happen. Specifically, I knew when I married my husband he couldn't have any more kids. I LOVE kids - of all ages; babies, toddlers, middle school, high school - all of them! When we got married, I was craving for the love and companionship I had found in him and growing a family was something secondary or an idea I believed in my younger years that would just "naturally happen" or "well figure it out."
I have a very strong "eh, we'll figure it out" mentality to most things in life.
Quick snapshot of my relationship with my husband, we've been together 10 years and he was deployed almost 5 years in the beginning. The first year of our marriage he was in the Middle East for the ENTIRE YEAR! Remember that "eh, we'll figure it out" mentality? That came in handy as new deployments arose and life had us on a different journey than expected.
So, we weren't your typical marriage dynamic where we were together every day or even every year... but it never swayed me from knowing he was for me! Understanding this context helps explain the timeline of the rest of the story...
When I realized my plan wasn't going to be my plan...
It wasn't until I was about 32 years old when an unfamiliar feeling of missing out started rising in my heart. I didn't feel hard driven to seek out motherhood or have conversations with Gil about alternatives of what we already knew, but disappointment and seclusion started setting in. It got so hard, I couldn't attend baby showers for friends, I was very sensitive (and still am) about group conversations with moms and other women without families where kid stories are the only subject, I became envious when I wasn't invited to "mom" things, I started getting jealous of friends for having something I didn't, and had a hard time understanding where I fit in with everything around me. The curious thing was; even in my quiet struggles, my love for Gil continued to grow and we remained bonded together as a couple. This internal struggle lasted throughout my 30's and most girlfriends who knew me were aware of how I felt. They compassionately understood. Outside of this situation, I was so content with the life I was blessed with and constantly pinched myself for the joy I had in all things!
I prayed to God and asked if he wasn't going to provide me a small tribe to look out for and mother then for Him to take away this feeling of being left out.
Fast forward to my 40's - life with my husband has grown into an amazing partnership and he truly is my best friend! I find it funny that you don't realize you are getting through something until you are actually through it. So, one day a few years ago, I realized I didn't have the same feelings toward my friends with kids or feel a left out of any discussions regarding families and kids. God had answered my prayers by changing my heart.
In fact, my eyes were opened to the truth that I actually had a lot of kids - they just weren't biological. Which isn't exactly the same, but its a great mental place to land. I am fulfilled by the relationships I have with young kids who belong to my friends, my volleyball players going through middle school and high school, and an incredible bond to my sisters children. I get to be a mentor, a friend, a consoler, and someone special to so many! God did bless me with children...lots of them!
So, as I explained this life experience and revelation to my new group of friends that night, I found it easy to share and I could feel people leaning in closer to listen to my words. God was working again - and using me to touch the hearts of someone. It brought back the realization on how important it is to vocalize our personal stories of emotional triumph to others. Many people are going through the "wrestling match of control" for what they planned and may need to hear the truth from a personal experience that the struggle isn't going to be forever. Whether its not having kids, not being married yet, being divorced, not being financially settled, or whatever the situation. I was reminded...again, sharing has power and feeling vulnerable isn't a scary thing, its a strength!
...And the world needs more of it!
We all need reminders good can rise from all situations. After that evening, the group leader, reached out and thank me for my honesty. I think we both knew this particular story spoke to the hearts of girls in the group, for whatever their reason. In my opinion, the coolest part was these girls are new to my life, so I'm practically a stranger, and my experience was used as a tool to give hope and remind them you can find joy regardless the outcome.
In life, when we share you never truly know who will be impacted. When we are bold and offer our life triumphs and challenges you might give hope to someone who needs it in that moment. My story is mine, and I'm not trying to paint a picture that its easy - cause it wasn't. But, God is so good and he provides - I just needed to realize it just might not be the way I "planned it" and maybe that speaks to someone else too!